Spring has arrived and we’re all slowly moving back into working life & working from home is becoming less frequent once again. This has a few implications on our mental health – a mixed bag of positive and negative. Being out in the world again can feel daunting but overall is healthier than being couped up in the home office all day. The flipside to this, for most, is fewer flexible hours. Getting out for a walk in nature may be less obtainable for a number of people now, which could lead to “Nature Deficit Disorder”- a term coined by author Richard Louv, in his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. In a nutshell, Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD) is a symptom of not having enough exposure to the natural world. E.g., being surrounded by plants, animals and trees. Both the sight and the sounds of these things alone is enough to trigger a reduction in stress and anxiety, but there is no substitute for the real thing. This was shown by a study conducted in Japan, where a group of participants were monitored on walks through both urban and forest environments. The results showed that being in nature resulted in a lower heartrate, lower blood pressure and a significant increase in mood – vs. a control group who did the same length & intensity walk in an urban environment. Read the full study here:
In short, there’s no disputing the positive impact that some exposure to natural habitats can have. But if it’s not easily obtainable for some then what can be done? This is where wildlife gardening comes in to play. Gardening in itself can be enough to stimulate these primal parts of the brain but if you’re feeling generous then why not exercise some give and take? Wildlife gardening is centred around making your garden space more friendly to the food chain. Rather than using chemicals to deter insects it aims to give them food, which attracts more birds and small mammals, which is better for everyone! This type of gardening can also suit a busy work lifestyle as generally speaking there is much less maintenance needed seeing as the plants used would grow naturally without any human intervention.
The depth in which you choose to explore this project can be dependent on factors such as how much room you have, but generally speaking there is something everyone can do to get involved. Also, for those still working from home, it can offer the perfect opportunity to get outside and top up your Vitamin D. It’s well known that the sunshine can help improve your mood & paired up with a little nature break during a busy day can give you the kick you need to get through the afternoon. If you don’t feel like going out for a walk then doing some little chores around the garden will give you a small booster of those nature benefits.
A fun one that can be good for the family is making a bee house. They’re cheap to buy but also simple to make if you have a tin can and some paper laying around – DIY: Make a Bee House with Recycled Materials – Pacific Beach Coalition This style of bee house will attract mason bees, which due to their solitary nature and short lifespan means they are excellent pollinators and alone are said to work around a hundred times harder than a full colony of honey bees & will visit roughly 2000 flowers in a single day. Giving these bees a home is the perfect way to help out floral life & you can recycle a few tin cans while you’re at it.
If you have access to the tools and materials then a bat box could be a more in-depth project to sink your teeth into. This handy guide provided by the North Wales Wildlife trust is a good one to follow which is kid friendly too.
More detailed steps can be found here – Build a bat box | North Wales Wildlife Trust
Bats are extremely helpful animals to have around. They consume a huge number of insects, to the point where some insects will actively avoid areas that bats inhabit. This can be a relief as the weather starts to warm up again. Making the choice between a hot room or a room full of insects on a summer night is never easy. However, giving some bats a home can help drastically reduce the number of pesky insects and you get a free air show in your garden every evening. The impact on the environment is substantial as having bats local to your garden can remove the need for pesticides entirely – This is perfect for a wildlife garden as toxic pesticides can often damage all life, rather than just the pests you’re aiming on deterring.
Making a garden pond isn’t accessible for everyone but the need for it is real – Almost 70% of the UK’s natural ponds are gone which has caused a rapid decline on species like dragonflies, newts & a number of water-bugs. For those who have the space, this can bring some real variety to the garden wildlife you will attract. As well as helping the wildlife a pond feature can add a lot of character to your garden space & if you enjoy DIY then it’s a great project to get stuck into. The space doesn’t need to be vast but the size of the pond will have an effect on the volume of animals which are attracted – with many species being territorial and/or predatory.
Again a thorough guide and all the materials you need can be found on the North Wales Wildlife Trust here – Wildlife ponds | North Wales Wildlife Trust.
So, maybe it’s time to pick up a spring hobby & give a little back to your corner of the earth and be a part of the global effort to reinvigorate our natural spaces. The impact is a tangible one that can improve not only the lives of our fellow animals, but also your own mental and physical health.